CHARLESTON, S.C. – The RiverDogs’ oppression of the Columbia Fireflies continued in the series opener Wednesday night, as Charleston took the initial game by a 7-1 final score in front of 2,955 at Joe Riley Park.
It was Charleston’s (18-14) seventh victory in nine tries against its in-state foe, and starter Jio Orozco (3-2, 1.83) was in control starting with the very first pitch.
Orozco set down the side in order, including a strikeout of the struggling Mets’ No. 4 overall prospect Shervyen Newton, and the RiverDogs offense took it from there.
Leadoff hitter Brandon Lockridge got the Dogs off to a good start, lining a single off Fireflies (9-22) starter Jose Butto (0-4, 4.88). Wilkerman Garcia followed him up with a two-run blast that cleared the right-center field wall over the outstretched glove of Columbia right fielder Yoel Romero. Stowers walked and stole second and third, but was ultimately stranded.
That was all the RiverDogs ended up needing, as Orozco was in total control of this one start-to-finish. He befuddled the Fireflies through seven innings, tying his season-high, and allowed just one run on four hits. He fanned eight and did not walk a hitter. It marked the fourth straight start of at least six innings and two or fewer runs allowed for the Arizona-born right-hander since being added to the Dogs’ dominant rotation.
The only time he ran into trouble was in the top of the second inning, when he allowed four straight Fireflies to reach after retiring the first two on a strikeout and a groundout. One of those four was second baseman Chandler Avant, who lined an RBI single to left field that scored Gerson Molina to cut the RiverDogs’ lead in half.
The Dogs clapped right back in the home half of the frame when Kyle Gray reached on one of two eventual errors in the inning. He came home on Lockridge’s RBI double, aided by a fielding error by the Columbia left fielder Walter Rasquin. Garcia and Stowers followed Lockridge’s double with two of their own, and the RiverDogs had opened up a 5-1 lead by the time Canaan Smith struck out to end the threat.
Butto was able to work a scoreless third, but Pedro Lopez had seen enough, yanking his starter after he had completed the three frames, giving up five runs on five hits.
Charleston added two more in the fifth, on the strength of a Nelson Gomez RBI single and a run-scoring double off the bat of Mickey Gasper.
Wellington Diaz made his Riley Park debut in relief of Orozco, wrapping up the win with two innings of shutout ball with a walk and a strikeout.
The RiverDogs have now won 10 of their last 12, and their 18-14 record is their high watermark on the season.
Wednesday night was one for the nurses in attendance. Fans saw everything from the usual ‘Patient Pickup’ game between innings to actual nurses coming to wrap a “patient” in pre-wrap. Seniors ate for free before 7 p.m. as well.